Recent Media

Ontario reveals housing supply action plan

With a focus on making it easier to build (and afford) a wider variety of housing, the action plan is being called a win for consumer choice. Heather Bone, a Toronto-based Research Fellow for the Consumer Choice Center (CCC) and Economics Ph.D. Student at the University of Toronto, said: “It is good to see the province is doing its part to reduce the red tape that makes it so difficult for developers to build.”

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Don’t blame Doug Ford for the costs of breaking unfair beer retailing contracts

Opinion: We should blame politicians who set up and maintained a system that has both inconvenienced and overcharged consumers for nearly a century.

A lot has changed in the last 92 years, but Ontario’s alcohol policy is one thing that has remained largely the same. Following the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1927, the province granted Brewers Warehousing Co. (later Brewers Retail/The Beer Store) a monopoly over beer sales, to appease prohibitionists. Now Prohibition’s legacy lives on through The Beer Store’s near monopoly on beer sales today, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing both political heat and legal threats by trying to challenge it.

If the Ford government follows its plan, beer and wine will be available in corner and big box stores by Christmas. Evidence suggests this policy will enhance consumer choice by expanding variety, increasing convenience, and lowering prices. Anindya Sen, an economist at the University of Waterloo, estimated that roughly $700 million in annual revenue earned by The Beer Store is incremental profit earned because of its monopoly status and ability to charge higher prices. Additionally, The Beer Store’s roots in Prohibition demonstrate that lack of access is a feature, not a bug, of the current retail system. This inconvenience may be why 54 per cent of Ontarians support allowing more privately owned stores to sell alcohol.

Modernizing alcohol sales is good public policy. While the LCBO’s earnings serve as a cash cow for the province, The Beer Store’s profits primarily go into the hands of large multinational brewers — Anheuser Busch-InBev, through its Labatt subsidiary; Colorado-based Molson-Coors; and Japan’s Sapporo, through its Sleeman subsidiary. Additionally, retail monopolies do little to promote social responsibility. As one of the authors’ research has shown, privatization of alcohol sales in Alberta was associated with a lower rate of impaired driving.

The precedent for this change exists, as convenience stores already sell lottery tickets and cigarettes, and face hefty penalties for selling to minors. Furthermore, alcohol liberalization isn’t only good for consumers, it’s good for the economy. By studying similar reforms in British Columbia, a new report from the Retail Council of Canada predicts that Ford’s proposed reforms would result in 9,100 new jobs and a $3.5-billion dollar increase in GDP.

We should not blame the Ford government for pursuing alcohol modernization

However, pursuing this change has had its own set of challenges. The Beer Store has threatened legal action against the province if it moves forward with its plan, citing its agreement with the previous Liberal government that limits the number and type of beer-retailing outlets in Ontario until 2025. Beer-industry insiders claim a breach of contract could cost Ontario up to $1 billion. While there are reasons to doubt this figure, including that estimates have rapidly grown from a previous estimate of $100 million in the short time since the story about the Ontario government’s plans broke, it has proven to be politically challenging for the Ford government. Critics have claimed that moving forward would be irresponsible due to the financial risk, with Ford being directly responsible for the potential losses.

There are two important lessons to take from these exorbitant claims. The first is that the figures that opponents of the plan are claiming are entirely unsubstantiated. They are simply the figures they claim. In order for them to have any legal weight whatsoever, they would have to be proven in court, which would require The Beer Store to open its books. Given the grandiose figures being tossed around, it is entirely possible that The Beer Store is bluffing in an attempt to maintain its privileged treatment. The second important lesson here is the price of cronyism overall. The government over-regulating and picking winners and losers in the market hurts consumers twice over. First through inflated prices and poor customer service, and again as taxpayers via legal challenges. Setting a precedent that the Ford government stands with consumers over special interests would clearly show that it stands for the people.

When it comes to placing blame, there is a lot to go around. We should blame the politicians who set up and maintained a retail system that has both inconvenienced and overcharged Ontario consumers for nearly a century. We should blame the previous government for attempting to tie the hands of subsequent leaders by signing the latest contract with The Beer Store. However, regardless of the outcome of the legal challenge, we should not blame the Ford government for pursuing alcohol modernization. While this move may be costly, it is necessary to right past wrongs and end Ontario’s Prohibition-era alcohol framework. Ford has lots to answer for, but not this.

Heather Bone is a research fellow at the Consumer Choice Center and an economics PhD student at the University of Toronto. David Clement is the North American affairs manager of the Consumer Choice Center.

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The Social Media ‘Deplatforming Purge’ Will Only Make the Internet a Seedier Place

At the dawn of the social media revolution, our first instincts were on the money.

Instantaneous communication, blogging and social networks were the ultimate innovations for free speech. Millions of people were given a voice beyond the reach of traditional gatekeepers. It was glorious.

Now that we’ve lived through two decades of this revolution, however, the gatekeepers have returned.

Facebook has banned several controversial account holders from its site and related properties such as Instagram, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, radical black nationalist minister Louis Farrakhan, and a whole host of alt-right commentators.

The company says they’ve been removed as they’re classified as “dangerous individuals and organizations” who “promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology.”

YouTube underwent a similar process in March, shutting down the accounts of hundreds of conservative voices in response to pressure from activists who seek to “deplatform” those with whom they disagree.

In a way, it’s difficult to place blame directly at the feet at the platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They’re only reacting to the feverish outcry of politicians in Washington and the new mantra of social justice that pervades major cities across the nation.

Banning fringe voices from social media networks may be popular among tech and political elites, but it will only further embolden the people with truly dangerous ideas.

The fresh wave of censorship is being led by the reaction to the actions of the deranged terrorist, motivated by very bad ideas, who opened fire on peaceful worshippers at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, killing 51 people and leaving 41 injured.

He livestreamed the entire rampage, peppering his deadly killing spree with commentary and phrases found on seedy online chat rooms and websites.

Political leaders in western nations want global regulations on the social media platforms used by the shooter, which you or I use everyday to communicate with our friends and family.

In the rush to prevent another attack, however, we should be warned against any crackdown on social media and Internet freedom. These are the tools of dictatorships and autocracies, not freedom-loving democracies.

But penalizing social media companies and its users for a tragic shooting that took place in real life abrogates responsibility for the individual alleged of this attack, and seeks to curb our entire internet freedom because of one bad actor.

What’s more, trying to play whack-a-mole with bad ideas on the internet in the form of bans or criminal liability will only embolden the seediest of platforms while putting unreasonable expectations on the major platforms. And that leads us to miss the point about this tragedy.

Social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter already employ tens of thousands of moderators around the world to flag and remove content like this, and users share in that responsibility. It will be up to these platforms to address concerns of the global community, and I have no doubt their response will be reasonable.

But on the other hand, this tragedy occurs in the context in which Big Tech is already being vilified for swinging elections, censoring speech of conservatives, and not reacting quickly enough to political demands on which content should be permissible or not.

As such, we are set to hear anti-social media proposals that have very little to do with what happened on that tragic day in Christchurch in idyllic New Zealand.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants the G20 to discuss global penalties for social media firms that allow questionable content. Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among many congressional Republicans, want to use antitrust regulations to break up Facebook.

A recent national poll found that 71 percent of Democratic voters want more regulation of Big Tech companies.

In the wake of a tragedy, we should not succumb to the wishes of the terrorist who perpetuated these attacks. Overreacting and overextending the power of our institutions to further censor and limit online speech would be met with glee by the killer and those who share his worldview. Reactionary policies to shut these voices out so they cannot read or listen to alternative views will only embolden them and make the internet a seedier place.

Many individuals and companies are now fully reliant on social media platforms for connecting with friends, attracting customers or expressing their free speech. They are overwhelmingly a force for good.

Yes, internet subcultures exist. Most of them, by definition, are frequented by very small numbers of people who are marginalized. But clamping down on social media will only radicalize this minority in greater numbers, and maybe lead to more blowback.

Cooler heads must prevail. Social media does more good than harm, and we cannot use the actions of a fraction of a minority to upend the experience for billions of users.

We can use these tools to condemn and prevent extremist ideas and behavior rather than the force of law or outright bans of controversial figures who make convenient targets.

Maine first state to ban single-use foam

It has been stated that polystyrene is non-recyclable, but Jeff Stier of the Consumer Choice Center says these foam products can indeed be recycled.

OneNewsNow interviewed Stier, a New York resident, after The Big Apple announced a ban on foam cups and containers.

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Im Kreuzfeuer: 5G, China, Sicherheit und Datenschutz

Schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G vs. Verbraucherschutz?

Nie war Mobilfunk so politisch wie heute. Während die EU-Kommission Vorschläge für ein abgestimmtes Vorgehen der EU zur Sicherheit von 5G-Netzen vorlegt, kritisiert das amerikanische Consumer Choice Center – nicht ohne Ironie -, dass man in der Datenschutzhochburg Europa bei 5G ausgerechnet auf Technologie aus einem Land (= China) setze, in dem der Datenschutz mit Füßen getreten werde.

Nach allerlei Winken mit dem sprichwörtlichen Zaunpfahl seitens der US-Regierung oder regierungsnaher Stellen setzt sich nun auch die liberale Lobbyorganisation Consumer Choice Center kritisch mit dem wachsenden Einfluss chinesischer Anbieter von Mobilfunktechnologie auf dem europäischen Markt auseinander.

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia).

Fred Roeder, ein studierter Ökonom, ist Managing Director des Consumer Choice Center in Arlington (Virginia). (Bild: Consumer Choice Center)

Für Fred Roeder, Geschäftsführer des Consumer Choice Center, sollte die Privatsphäre der Verbraucher in dieser Debatte an erster Stelle stehen. “5G bietet eine völlig neue Art der Konnektivität und verspricht enorme Vorteile für das Internet der Dinge. Dies wird begrüßt, aber gleichzeitig sollten sich die europäischen Verbraucher des potenziellen Gepäcks bewusst sein, das einige Infrastrukturanbieter mitbringen”, so Roeder.

“Während die EU eine der strengsten Datenschutzbestimmungen der Welt hat die DSGVO die Geschäftstätigkeit vieler gesetzestreuer Unternehmen in der EU erheblich erschwert hat, sollten wir uns Sorgen machen, dass Technologieunternehmen mit Sitz in Ländern ohne Rechtsstaatlichkeit ein potenzielles Datenschutzrisiko für Verbraucherdaten darstellen. Während ein schneller und billiger Rollout von 5G für einige ein großer Sprung nach vorne sein könnte, müssen wir sicherstellen, dass wir nicht in dunklere Zeiten zurückkehren, wenn es um den Datenschutz der Verbraucher in Europa geht”, erklärt Roeder.

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The Unlikely Saving Grace of British Cannabis

The global crusade against cannabis is finally beginning to falter. As the attitudes of citizens and lawmakers alike begin to soften, the prospects of full legalisation have gone from a stoner’s pipe-dream (if you’ll pardon the pun) to very feasible in only a couple of years. With a fifth of the US legalising the plant for recreational use, alongside Canada and Uruguay, as well as numerous European states opting to decriminalise its use, progress has been quick and promising.

This is cause for optimism. Newly-legal markets in the US and Canada have already seen booms in market growth and innovation, not to mention the positive effects of decriminalisation on the harm felt by users. In decriminalising or outright legalising cannabis, legislators in such countries have helped foster an environment in which entrepreneurship and consumer well-being are welcomed and encouraged.

But there’s still work to do. In many countries, reluctance to embrace cannabis is preventing them from enjoying the benefits felt by more committed nations. Legislators are, all too often, unable or unwilling to properly ride the green wave, preferring instead to watch from the pier.

Italy, for example, is a victim of this lack of commitment. Vagueness surrounding the legality of Italian hemp and cannabis has made it far more difficult for entrepreneurs and investors to know where they stand, damaging their confidence and potential to create a flourishing market. As such, progress has been far slower in Italy (a country which once held the number two spot worldwide for industrial hemp production), than in countries which are more willing to commit.

In the UK, the story looks rather familiar. Despite the nearly four-decade long prohibition on medical cannabis being overturned by Home Secretary Sajid Javid last year, access to the drug is still hampered by heavy-handed restrictions and high costs. Patients will have to wade through a sea of bureaucracy and extortionate bills to have access to the drug legally, rendering any benefits this would have over continued use of the black market very hazy.

Growers and entrepreneurs, too, are deterred by legal ambiguity. With the British government reluctant to go any further than this somewhat-legal medicinal cannabis, the country is at risk of following Italy’s footsteps and missing out on what seems poised to be one of the most promising markets of our time.

There is a silver lining though. While patients and consumers may have their wellbeing overlooked by the government in Westminster, an unlikely source shows far more promise when it comes to protecting their welfare. Across the UK, members of the police are beginning to relax their approaches to cannabis offences.

Rather than prosecuting those caught with small amounts of the drug, many police officers are instead opting for warning and recommendations for how to quit. This has prompted accusations that the police are pushing for de facto decriminalisation outside of the realm of legislators.

In practice, however, such action might be the saving grace for British cannabis consumers. A more relaxed approach from police allows for a far safer environment, with police attention shifted to the darker, truly criminal side of the market, and away from nonviolent consumers.

Moreover, the controversy surrounding this ‘blind-eye’ approach could be just the thing needed to get the ball rolling on higher-up decriminalisation. Rather than shell out thousands for legal medicinal cannabis, or to risk buying on the black market, some are now pushing the cause of growing the plant at home for treatment of certain ailments.

While the British cannabis scene is still hampered by a stubborn government, changing attitudes from law enforcement could revitalise the debate on harm-reduction and smart drugs policy, all the while making life easier for consumers. It may be early days, but there’s hope that legislators will see sense in the police’s decision.

The Huawei Case: Backdoors, Telnet und ein Rauswurf

Anfang der Woche nährte eine Meldung der Nachrichtenagentur Bloomberg erneut Zweifel hinsichtlich der “Zuverlässigkeit” des chinesischen Netzwerkausrüsters Huawei. So hatte der Mobilfunkbetreiber Vodafone gegenüber der Nachrichtenagentur Bloomberg bestätigt, dass man in Italien bei Huawei-Technologie verdächtige Schwachstellen – sogenannte Backdoors – gefunden habe, die Unbefugten einen Zugang zum Festnetz des Carriers in Italien hätten ermöglichen können.

Diagnosefunktion nach der Entwicklung der Systeme nicht entfernt?

Diese “Schwachstellen” seien laut Vodafone bereits 2011 entdeckt worden. Nun rudert der Telekom-Konzern zurück und bemüht sich um eine technische Klarstellung. So handele es sich bei der Hintertür, auf die sich Bloomberg beziehe, um das Telnet-Protokoll, das von vielen Anbietern in der Industrie zur Durchführung von Diagnosefunktionen verwendet werde. Dieses wäre aber nicht über das Internet zugänglich gewesen, so Vodafone.

Einschätzungen der in USA beheimateten Lobbyorganisation Consumer Choice Center zufolge belegt der jüngste Vorfall Risiken für mögliche Verletzungen des Verbraucherschutzes und mache zugleich deutlich, dass die derzeitigen gesetzlichen Vorschriften zum Schutz der Privatsphäre der Verbraucher im Zeitalter der 5G-Technologien unzureichend sind.

Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager des Consumer Choice Center, sagte dazu: “Wir glauben nicht, dass das Verbot von Huawei-Technologie und der Beginn eines Handelskrieges mit China der richtige Weg ist. Vielmehr fordern wir, dass alle Gesetzgeber und Strafverfolgungsbehörden Maßnahmen ergreifen und Normen schaffen, die sich an der Sicherheitszertifizierung von Software und Geräten orientieren sollten (wie im “Cybersecurity Act” der EU vorgeschlagen). Wir sind der Meinung, dass eine starke Verschlüsselung und sichere Authentifizierungsmethoden ein wesentlicher Bestandteil der Bemühungen zum Schutz der Privatsphäre der Verbraucher sein sollten.”

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Huawei Vodafone backdoor renews demand for better privacy rules

CONTACT:
Luca Bertoletti
European Affairs Manager
Consumer Choice Center
[email protected]
39 3451694519

Huawei Vodafone backdoor renews demand for better privacy rules

ROME – Today it was revealed that hidden backdoors were discovered in Huawei Equipment by the mobile provider Vodafone back in 2011. 

Vodafone identified hidden backdoors in the software that could have given Huawei unauthorized access to the carrier’s fixed-line network in Italy, reports Bloomberg.

The Consumer Choice Center says this intrusion highlights the risks for consumer privacy violations and demonstrates how current legal rules are insufficient in protecting consumers’ privacy in the age of 5G technologies. 

Luca Bertoletti, European Affairs Manager at the Consumer Choice Center, reacted to the news.

“This incident should signal to Italian law enforcement agencies the importance of Italian privacy rights and the seriousness of privacy intrusions from third parties. We invite legislators from all of Europe to press telco operators to take new steps to protect consumer privacy and take fast actions to prevent future breaches of internet networks.”

“We don’t believe that banning Huawei, and starting a trade war with China, is the right way to go. Rather, we demand that all legislative bodies and law enforcement actors take action and create standards that should be guided by security certification of software and devices (like proposed in the EU’s “Cybersecurity Act”). We believe that strong encryption and secure methods of authentication should be a significant part of the effort to safeguard consumer privacy,” concluded Bertoletti.

This particular topic ties into the CCC’s Consumer Privacy note, which was released this month.

***CCC European Affairs Manager Luca Bertoletti is available to speak with accredited media on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send media inquiries HERE.***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

Légalisation du cannabis à des fins médicales ou récréatives

Suite à l’annonce en décembre 2018 du gouvernement luxembourgeois de procéder à légalisation de la vente et de la consommation du cannabis à des fins médicales ou récréatives, le LCGB a rencontré le groupe de travail international Consumer Choice Center (CCC) en date du 25 avril 2019.

En tant qu’organisation internationale en contact avec les législateurs au niveau mondial et entre autres, avec les institutions de l’Union européenne, le CCC a exposé au LCGB ses préoccupations quant à cette légalisation et a souligné l’importance que la vente et la consommation du cannabis fasse l’objet d’un encadrement légal bien réfléchi.

Sur base des études réalisées dans certains Etats américains et au Canada, les représentants du CCC, David CLEMENT, Yeaël OSSOWSKI et Bill WIRTZ ont souligné la nécessité de mettre en place un cadre légal avec une politique de prix et de taxation raisonnable permettant de diminuer le recours au marché illégal de la vente du cannabis.

Le LCGB a profité de l’occasion pour se renseigner plus en détail sur la législation canadienne en afin de déterminer si un tel modèle est transposable au Luxembourg ou non et quels sont les impacts positifs ou négatifs pour les consommateurs. A noter qu’il faudrait d’abord tirer un premier bilan sur l’utilisation du cannabis médical, autorisée depuis début 2019 au Luxembourg et sur la consommation de chanvre, déjà possible dès à présent, avant de légiférer en la matière.

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Ne répétons pas les erreurs de la “Beepocalypse”

Les populations d’insectes ne font pas l’objet de recherches suffisantes pour donner des indications sur leur disparition mondiale.

En 2006, un nombre considérable d’apiculteurs américains ont remarqué que des populations entières d’abeilles abandonnaient leurs colonies, laissant la reine avec un nombre insuffisant d’abeilles derrière elles pour recréer une ruche saine. Ce phénomène a été baptisé “Syndrome d’effondrement des colonies d’abeilles”,dont la cause été attribuée à des organismes génétiquement modifiés (OGM). Cette suspicion n’ayant pas été prouvée scientifiquement, le blâme a été porté sur les néonoïdes (abréviation de néonicotinoïdes), une classe relativement nouvelle d’insecticides.

Des milliers d’articles et d’opinions ont été publiés à la suite de ce qu’on a appelé la “Beepocalypse” (apocalypse des abeilles). Conséquence ? L’interdiction de certaines néoniques en Europe. Aux États-Unis, les législateurs ont choisi de ne pas procéder à des interdictions complètes. En fin de compte, le déclin des colonies de 2006 a été jugé multifactoriel, il ne repose pas sur l’unique cause des insecticides, les virus étant également considérés comme un autre facteur de décès répandu. Par ailleurs, il est à noter que les populations d’abeilles sont en hausse en Amérique du Nord, en Europe et dans le monde depuis plus d’une décennie.

La majorité des publications médiatiques n’ont pas cherché à rectifier leur reportages sur le sujet, et par conséquent, l’opinion publique des consommateurs tend à penser que  la “Beepocalypse” est réelle.

On se croirait voyager dans le passé quand on  lit des titres comme “L’apocalypse est proche… pour les insectes” (Courrier international, 30 novembre 2018), “Disparition des insectes: homme en danger” (LCI, 18 février 2019), “L’inquiétante disparition des insectes” (France24, 20 février 2019), “Les insectes menacées par une extinction mondiale” (Le Soir, 11 février 2019), “Disparition massive des insectes: “L’ampleur est catastrophique” (RTBF, 12 février 2019).

La source principale de ces titres provient d’une étude intitulée “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna : A review of its drivers” par Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, de la School of Life & Environmental Sciences de l’Université de Sydney. Bayo prévoit un déclin en spirale de la population mondiale d’insectes, ce qui entraînera l’effondrement de l’écosystème tout entier. Il prétend qu’il s’agit d’une perte annuelle de 2,5% au cours des 25 à 30 dernières années. “C’est très rapide. Dans 10 ans, vous aurez un quart de moins, dans 50 ans, plus que la moitié et dans 100 ans, vous n’en aurez plus”, a déclaré Sánchez-Bayo au Guardian en février.

Le scientifique espagnol pense que les néonicotinoïdes et l’insecticide fipronil sont responsable. Il cible également l’intensification agricole, s’opposant aux champs dénudés et le traitement intensif avec des engrais et des pesticides.

La disparition de tous les insectes d’ici 2119 est une revendication audacieuse qui a conduit Clive Hambler et Peter Alan Henderson du Département de zoologie de l’Université d’Oxford à soumettre une critique intitulée “Challenges in Measuring Global Insect Decline” à Biological Conservation (la revue qui a publié l’étude Sánchez-Bayo), dans laquelle ils posent quelques questions fondamentales sur la méthodologie utilisée.

Étonnamment, la recherche de Sánchez-Bayo a passé en revue un total de 73 études, mais n’a ciblé que celles qui montraient un déclin de la population d’insectes. Les chercheurs d’Oxford accusent également cette étude de “fausses déclarations sur le manque de données pour les fourmis”.

Hambler et Henderson abordent également les “listes rouges” dans leur critique, à travers lesquelles Sánchez-Bayo revendique l’extinction d’espèces, alors qu’en fait, elles sont en train de disparaître au niveau régional. Ce phénomène peut se produire à cause des changements climatiques et fait que les insectes sont absents de la région et non pas disparus à l’échelle mondiale.

Il convient également de souligner que les estimations concernant le nombre exact d’espèces d’insectes varient entre 2 et 30 millions, ce qui rend au mieux douteuses les allégations concernant le déclin mondial des populations d’insectes sur la base de certaines espèces. De plus, il est très difficile d’évaluer le nombre d’insectes sauvages. L’indice est dans le nom, ils sont “sauvages” et donc, pas faciles à compter.

Plus frappant encore, l’étude Sánchez-Bayo a mal interprété la recherche sur laquelle elle a basé sa théorie. On remarque également que trois rois études dont il se sert pour prouver que les pesticides sont la seule cause du déclin des insectes, n’arrivent pas à cette conclusion.

Une chose est certaine : les populations d’insectes ne font pas l’objet de recherches suffisantes pour donner des indications sur leur disparition mondiale. Et oui, il faut du temps et des efforts pour lire le sujet avant de prendre des décisions ou même de légiférer en fonction de celui-ci. Les journalistes ont leur responsabilité en cette matière.

D’autant plus que l’erreur a été commise une fois auparavant.

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